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Thursday, 1 April 2010

The cost of destroying heritage.

At a meeting of Medway Council last year, Councillor Hubbard asked the Leader, Councillor Rodney Chambers, the following question:
"In the Assistant Director's (Housing and Corporate Services) letter of 5 May, she details the financial reasoning why the Council is committed to demolishing the Aveling and Porter building on the former Civic Centre site. There is little information given for the reasoning behind the figures: for example, ' to spend £70,000 to secure and underpin the old building and £65,000 to replace service supplies'. For the public record can the Leader set out in detail the reasons behind costings, and how they were formulated, which have been used to justify his Cabinet's decision to demolish the said building?"

The Leader, Councillor Rodney Chambers explained that in the Assistant Director’s letter she outlined what the expected costs to the Council would be if the Aveling and Porter office building were retained. This included £70,000 to secure and underpin the building, £65,000 to replace service supplies and ongoing annual costs of up to £139,000.
The £70,000 was to underpin the building at the point where it would be severed from the remainder of the Civic Centre building and would stabilise and waterproof the building.
Services to the Aveling and Porter office building, such as electricity and water, were supplied through the Civic Centre building and would be severed if the building were demolished. Utility providers had estimated the costs of replacing these services to be approximately £65,000.
On top of these one off costs would be up to £139,000 of annual costs which include £20,511 for rates, £10,800 for insurance, £5,000 for utilities, £7,000 for essential maintenance and up to £96,000 for security.
These figures do not include the backlog of repairs estimated to be £624,000 and other underpinning work which may have to be undertaken at a cost of £80,000. There would also be an additional cost if the building were later demolished of £200,000.
The Leader stated that it is far from clear that the Council could get a return on this investment once the site is made ready for re-development. The value of the site had been considered and it was believed that, if the building were retained, the reduction in the value of the site would be approximately £850,000.
He added that it was on the basis of these financial and safety implications and the view of English Heritage about the historic interest of the site, that the Council had decided it did not have the resources available to retain the building.

Well, that's all very nice, but what are we to make of the backlog of repairs? Does Medway Council routinely neglect the buildings it occupies? Can we expect the council to bulldoze Gun Wharf for a bit of prime riverside redevelopment money when that backlog of repair costs start building up again? Just something to think about.

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